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A JEW IN THE “SERVICE” OF THE REICH
Jacob Ingerman was a young Jewish communist, a mathematics teacher, when WWII broke out. After being wounded in a battle against the Nazi invaders, he was recruited by the Red Army Intelligence and sent on an assignment behind enemy lines. The book’s focus is the long period during which Ingerman functioned as a German soldier in the service of the Soviet intelligence. Memories of his childhood, which add to the portrayal of his personality and the difficulties he faced, are integrated into the story. It concludes at the end of WWII, when Ingerman replaced his loyalty to the Soviet motherland with an eager involvement in the rescue enterprise of Jewish survivors.
Ingerman’s flowing depictions, full of sharp perception and sincerity, begin with his being parachuted into German-held territory. After getting organized in the house of a liaison contact, he was ordered to volunteer as an interpreter in an engineering unit of the German army. When the German unit transferred to its next location, he ‘yielded’ to their persuasion and joined them. From that moment, he endured two-and-a-half years of loneliness, stress and fear amongst the enemy.
In the shadow of the constant threat that his activities may be exposed or his Jewish origins revealed, Ingerman succeeded in acquiring the Germans’ trust and functioned in their midst in various places in Europe. His ‘service’ in the German army comprised three main periods:
•Activity that took place on conquered Soviet territory, which enabled him to make contact with the Underground, partisans and liaison people. This period featured thrilling operations, hair-raising actions and routine activity.
•Activity that took place in Germany itself, where his unit was sent for rest and reorganization. While in Dresden, Ingerman set up an Underground cell on Reich territory. Germans who opposed the Nazis and Soviet slave laborers employed by the Germans in the country were integrated into this cell.
•Finally, Ingerman’s unit was sent to Italy. There he made contact with the Italian Underground in his area, assisted with information, weapons and ammunition, and was helped, in return, to regain contact with his controllers in Soviet Russia and with various affairs such as the release of prisoners.
Ingerman’s descriptions enable us to discern the routine life of a German support force, which, while it did not take any real part in the fighting, was close to the front line. It transpires that not all Germans were cut from the same cloth. Among them were extreme anti-Semites, but also soldiers who found the Führer repulsive and acted against the army.
The young and handsome Jacob encountered young women who were involved in clandestine operations in the various places where his unit encamped. In some cases, relationships developed and even became intimate, but they were nipped in the bud because of the exigencies of war and his unit’s movements. When the war was over, Ingerman married the daughter of an activist in the Italian underground.
The newly wed couple’s accidental meeting in Venice with a soldier of the Jewish Brigade resulted in a change of plans. Ingerman relinquished the idea of returning to the Soviet Union and harnessed himself to the enterprise of bringing the camp survivors to the Land of Israel and worked toward it up to the day he himself immigrated there.
Articulate language draws us into dire situations, dangers that lurk at every step, love affairs in the shadow of war and the unbelievable coincidences of life itself.